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Through 24 years of coaching ice hockey, Ellenton’s Fred Eaton has notched some major achievements, including two national championships.

This year, Eaton’s midget (under 18) Gulf Coast Flames are again turning heads. Playing in the Eastern Junior Elite Prospect League (EJEPL), the Flames managed a nine-game winning streak last fall. That earned them an invitation to this month’s International Silver Sticks tournament in Sarnia, Ontario, where they’ll play against some of North America’s best hockey players.

“[My players] see I wear my heart on my sleeve, and they respect that,” says Eaton. “I’m there for them behind the scenes, too, and they know that.”

The drawback to his success? Almost half of Eaton’s current roster will leave next year to play for junior teams up North, where they’ll try to catch the eye of NHL scouts. “I’m going to lose at least eight players,” he says. “I’m already planning for next season.”

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